Monday, February 29, 2016

Pride andPrejudice

An Imperfect Life


Pride and Prejudice

Chapter 10


 Back in hospital I was delighted to discover I was going on Heywood – a surgical ward where, on
the whole, patients were admitted, had the op and went home fit and well.  This would be much less
emotionally taxing than Borchardt Ward where many of the patients didn’t survive and I was thankful
for the respite. 

  As soon as I walked on the ward I could feel the difference.  It seemed lighter and brighter and many of the children were sitting up and taking notice.  There were two Ward Sisters and a Staff Nurse.  After we had bathed the children – some were well enough to go to the bathroom – Sister said I was to accompany Staff and help her with the dressings.  I watched carefully as she set up the trolley using instruments that had been boiled up in the ward steriliser.  There were different trolleys for different procedures and we had to learn them.  The dressings and bandages which we prepared when the children were asleep after lunch were stored in a metal drum.  This was then taken to theatre and sterilised in a giant autoclave.

Staff Nurse Bond was a sturdy Yorkshire lass and very quickly earned my respect as she dressed these very delicate mastoidectomy wounds (an operation to remove diseased air cells in the mastoid bone, which is behind the ear).  She made – what could have been a very painful experience for the child as normal as having a bed bath and I determined to try and emulate her skill.  I was allowed to put the bandage on when she had finished.  In those days we used a crepe bandage taking a turn round the forehead and then making a neat pattern going round and round above the ear and then below the ear.  I had been quite good at it in PTS and was pleased when Staff said “Well done Barnes!”

  After that we did the abdominals and again I admired the skill and the immediate effect of dressing the wounds and putting a clean dressing on.
  Many of the patients were T’s and A’s (tonsils and adenoids).  Before WW2 it was the norm to

remove them at the first sign of trouble.  I had mine out aged three.  During the war the hospitals

were more stretched, the lists got longer and longer and it was realised that in most cases, by the age

of eight, the problem had disappeared.

.  The one thing we came to dread were ‘bleeders’: patients who bled unremittingly after their op.  A close watch was kept on their pulse rate to monitor this, but our hearts would sink if there was a child who was a redhead or had a certain wishy- washy, mousy coloured hair coupled with a pasty skin.  I don’t know if there is a scientific explanation for why these patients were more likely to bleed, but we student nurses believed they did.  
I was certainly enjoying being on a surgical ward – the snag was going to theatre which could be

nerve wracking when you didn’t know what to expect.

.  The theatre staff were super efficient with low fuses as I had already discovered; Heaven help you if you had forgotten theatre socks or any of the things you were meant to remember.  Fortunately the ward was just opposite the theatre so I didn’t have the long trek down the main corridor.  We wheeled the trolley – with patient - into the small anaesthetic room.  The anaesthetist was an Irish lady with grey hair and a sharp manner.  You wouldn’t want to irritate her.  She had a whacking great diamond on her finger and I stared, fascinated as she spilt ether on it, as well as on the mask she placed over the child’s face. It was mesmerising and I used to wonder if I was soaking up the ether myself.

   The consultants were treated like gods; a hot water bottle for this one – special soap for that one.  In my ignorance I thought they were great fuss-pots but of course the soap was for an allergy and the hot water bottle to warm the consultant’s hands before he examined a child.  Nevertheless when the ENT specialist – another lady - entered the ward in white theatre gum boots and a lamp on her head, there were a few sniggers when a child called out:  ‘Coo look!  A miner!’

  Throughout our trials and tribulations we were sustained by the solidarity of our set, the original PTS.  During that initial three months we had bonded together.  Now we were doing different jobs on different wards with different time off.  But mostly we were in the same Home and we were like family, a great comfort during the trials and tribulations.  There was wastage of course and out of the 21 original student nurses only nine of us took our Finals.  Some found it exhausting and stressful.  Some found the discipline too harsh.  On the whole I found the older Sisters quite fair and kind but some of the younger ones could make life very difficult if they didn’t like you.

  I was lucky most of the time- until towards the end of my training.
One of our set – Ginny - was on the ward with me and we discovered that she lived in Padiham, just north of our valley and we would travel on the same bus.  Most of the girls came from around the Manchester area and there was a subtle difference; the staff in Kendal Milne’s Store used to blench when it was Rossendale Wakes Week, and they were over-run with the strange folk from my valley.  Ginny and I spoke the same language and became close friends.

  Just before my eighteenth birthday I got a lovely surprise: an invitation from Jamie to go as his partner to a Commemoration Ball in Oxford.  I told Maddie when I phoned her and she said it would be a wonderful experience.  I couldn’t wait to tell Mum and Dad on my day off.  Ginny and I travelled home together taking the bus to Manchester from outside the hospital and crossing the city on foot to Moseley Street Bus Station.  Not a very nice place to be on your own after dark. (Surely it wasn’t named after Oswald?)  We discussed what I should wear for the Ball. 

  “I’ve got to find the fare to Oxford so I’ll probably wear that white lace Maddie gave me.”

“Oh you look lovely in that – but if you’re fed up with it why not borrow my new one.  You lent me your bridesmaid’s dress.  I’ll bring it back with me tomorrow. ‘

“Thanks Ginny – it’ll be smashing to wear something that isn’t white.”

  Maddie and Paul had been visiting for a few days – staying with the Aunts – as they always did.  My excitement was dampened when Mum said they knew about the invitation.

“Maddie said it would be a wonderful experience and Ginny’s going to lend me her new dress so I’ve just got the fare to find and I can…”

  I could see from their faces there was something wrong and my voice faded.

  Dad cleared his throat and put on his really serious- quite cross face.

“Pat we don’t want yer to go!”

I could feel my jaw drop and was speechless.

“I’ve ‘ad a word wi’ Paul an’ ‘e sez them Balls go on all night an’ end up wi’ orgies on’t river.

“But Dad our Maddie’s been to one and she told me on the phone it would be a wonderful experience and Paul - he’s never been to one – he’s been out in India and -and Japan..”  I was beginning to splutter.

“I’ve said me say an’ that’s that.  May – I’m off.”  And off he went to the pub or Granddad’s or wherever he needed to go to escape my blethering.

  “Mum it’s not fair – I’m 18 next month.  You let Maddie get married at 19.  YOU got married at 18 and pregnant!”

“That’s enough Pat!”

“Mum you’ve met Jamie- you know he’s a decent lad.  He would look after me I know he would.”

“|Your Dad’s made up his mind!”

 “It’s ridiculous – I’ve lived away from home since I was16 and a half.  I could have slept with a whole squadron in St Annes if I’d wanted to.  I’m not that kind of girl.  I thought you and Dad knew that.”  By now the tears were starting to flow and I got hiccups.

“Your Daddy’s just trying to protect you”.  So there we were.  With Mum I could usually talk her round but Dad was immovable if he believed he was right and the devil of it was I could cope with anything but his disapproval.  The thing that really got me was that he took the word of ‘a bloody Southerner’ over his own daughter’s.

Paul was very persuasive – he had convinced my parents that Maddie should marry him before she had finished college.

When I told Ginny the next day she was both incredulous and sympathetic.  I had to write to Jamie that unfortunately I now had to refuse his invitation.

  Out of the blue I had a letter from Sean Malloy, Paul’s best man at the wedding who was at the same college as Paul, inviting me to his Commemoration Ball.  When I got over the shock I was angry to discover that this was acceptable to my parents- presumably because he was a friend of Paul’s.  This seemed to me to be blatant hypocrisy.  Pride and prejudice made me spurn the invitation in spite of Jamie pointing out that if I went to Oxford, at least we would see each other.

  By my next day off things had calmed down; Dad and Evan had gone to the match, Paul had gone back to Oxford so Mum, Maddie and I had a lovely girly day.  After supper Mum said we would walk down to the Aunts.  As we strolled along the Avenues and through the park Maddie started to talk about her marriage.  It seemed all was not well in Paradise, but Mum cut her off.

  “You’ve made your bed Maddie- you must lie on it!”

That seemed a bit harsh to me but that was Mum for you. I remembered Adrian’s words: “Now Paul’s married to a girl like Maddie he should buck his ideas up.”

However, all should be well because I then got the news that Maddie was pregnant.


Friday, February 19, 2016

More old photies

                                             Left to right Maddie, Pat, Evan, Mum,Dad.
 Skinnier days.
 Mum, Dad, my two boys and me in the Lakes
I remember all of these clearly but especially our frightening Head aka Herman.  Poor man had been in France in WW1. He terrified me so when he asked me what 11x 11was I froze.  As he turned  away to get the cane out of the cupboard I was saved by Roy Huges - third boy from the right on the next to back row who told me the answer which I can never remember.  The head mistress - Mrs Chadwick was my favourite teacher.  I am front row at the left.  Two of the girls behind me are life long friends and we chat on the phone regularly.  Three years later I got my scholarship to the Grammar School
God bless all - especially Roy.  Sorry the photo is a bit blurry.
Click to enlarge.
Hooray- the first time for weeks I have been able to post photies

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Dreaming Spires and Bedpans

Chapter 9

Dreaming Spires and Bedpans.

    Now that we had completed P.T.S. to prepare us to be let loose for our month’s trial on the wards we were all wondering where that would be -  whether on a surgical or a medical ward.

“What’s the difference Pat?  You’re the one with experience.”

“Well I’ve never nursed very sick children.  It was a Convalescent Home remember.”

“But you must have some idea,” Delia persisted.

“OK - well speaking very generally - on a surgical ward patients are admitted, have the op, have their stitches out and go home – if all goes well.”

“And on a medical ward?”

“It’s a much slower process and requires a lot of day to day nursing care and patience.  Some of the patients will be unconscious so you have to think for them and keep them comfortable.  Anyway we’ll know our fate soon enough.  Sister has just put the list on the notice board.”

  Clustered round the notice board I felt my face flush as I saw that for the next month I would be on one of the three medical wards – Borchardt Ward. I knew there would be patients suffering from tubercular meningitis and leukaemia – both fatal diseases in the forties, so it was going to be harrowing.  Everyone knew someone with TB, before the advent of safe milk.  

  We were extras on the ward so there was time to get to know some of the thirty odd patients including half a dozen babies.  There were two baby nurses and I longed to be one of them looking after the babies but I had to help generally at first. 

  The wards had very tall windows by each bed (if a patient had a high temperature we were told to open a window) and at each end of the ward in the middle of the room were two large tiled edifices – waist high - with fires at each end protected by fire guards.  In the centre was Sister’s desk always with a vase of flowers.  First thing in the morning we would group round the desk whilst the night nurses gave their report and Sister would give us our orders.  Each nurses had six patients each and she was responsible for all their toilet and treatments.  There was usually an extra nurse who would cover off duty and days off.

  I got a shock the first week when Sister said:

“Nurse Barnes.  Get Tom Sargent ready for theatre please.”  As we were a medical ward this was unexpected.  I was told to get woollen socks from one of the cupboards in the vestibule - it was essential to keep the patient’s feet warm during an operation – but when I got there the cupboard was bare – of woollen socks.  I searched the other cupboards – fruitlessly.

  I rushed to Staff Nurse (running is only allowed if there is fire or haemorrhage involved.

“I can’t find – there aren’t any – I’ve looked in all the cupboards I…

  Sensing my rising panic she said:

“Go to the nearest Surgical Ward – that’s Wrigley next ward on the left and borrow some socks.  You’d better be quick!”

On Wrigley I found people were not inspired to move quickly when requested by an unbelted Nurse – we only were allowed to wear a belt if we successfully passed the month’s trial - and by the time I got back to the ward Staff Nurse was looking hassled.  Thank Heaven she had put Tom on a trolley and dressed him in a theatre gown.

“You’ve really got to get a move on now Barnes – Sister Violet has been on the phone and the whole theatre is waiting for Tom!”  I gulped – we had all heard about the Theatre Sister who ate probationers for breakfast in spite of her resemblance to a curly haired Violet Elizabeth Bott of “Just William” fame.

  Staff Nurse helped me manoeuvre the heavy trolley outside the ward and then left me to it.  I looked down the corridor - the length of the Hospital where the Theatre was sited and I could just see three irate figures gesturing angrily in my direction.  I took a deep breath, put one arm protectively over Tom and pushed with all my might towards theatre and the trolley forged straight into the wall on the side of the corridor.

I yanked it back and pushed again.  This time it forged straight ahead into the opposite wall.  By this time we were almost at HoldenWard.  Only Wrigley, Liebert and Heywood wards to go and we’d almost be there.  I tried not to look at the three figures – who now seemed to be dancing.  By the time I reached Heyood they raced towards me and snatched Tom and trolley out of my grasp. I reflected that Medical and Surgical are two different worlds and never the twain should mix.  Ideally.

  Sister Moon was one of the older ones and was kind and motherly.  This helped when we had to nurse patients with T.B meningitis and leukaemia –fatal diseases in those days.

  One little girl on the ward came from a wealthy family and had been given her own cow, which tragically turned out to be tubercular.   Over the years progress has been made; we have clean milk, TB is rare and leukaemia can be cured, but in the forties, these were dread diseases and careful nursing was all-important to keep the patients comfortable and as happy as possible.  Nursing children spoils you as far as nursing adults is concerned.  They are incredibly brave and warrant love and affection.  Whenever I am afraid of some ordeal I have to go through, I remember Edward, a boy of ten who had to have intramuscular injections every four hours.  He would look at me with his big brown eyes and say, ‘Just wait till I get my grip Nurse,’ and he would grip the bed head, have the injection and then let me give him a hug.  I once persuaded a senior nurse to give me an intramuscular injection so I would know what it felt like.  I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to have one every four hours.

Parents were allowed to visit once a week, on Sundays from 3pm till 4pm and they were very much under the eagle eye of Sister.  There was no sitting on beds, no children visitors and only parents were allowed.  Hard as it may have been for the parents normally the children became used to us after a day or so and the big pay off was there was no cross infection.  We would have died of shame. Each ward had its own maids and the wards were spotless.  There was a smell that was mixture of floor polish and disinfectant.  From the entrance to the ward you would see that all the bed castors were turned inwards at the correct angle and all pillow case openings were away from the door.  This attention to detail was carried through in all aspects of nursing care, and the sloppiness one sometimes sees in today’s hospitals concerns me.  As a junior nurse, one’s first duty in the morning was to wipe down the beds and lockers with Dettol and then check the children’s heads for nits.  Matron did a ward round every day but never at the same time and you and the ward had better be looking immaculate.  There was a cleaner Mrs Wray who spent all day going from one end of the main corridor, on her hands and knees, scrubbing.  I flinched every time I had to walk over it and she would give me a weary smile as I apologised.

  Friends used to ask how I could bear to nurse children so ill and the answer was the children were inspiring and it was possible to have happy times together.   What used to finish me was when I looked at the parent’s faces when they came on the ward on a Sunday.  I would have to retreat into the Sluice, have a good blub and then get back on the ward. 
  At last the month’s trial was over; I was given my grey belt and a few months’ respite before the Preliminary State Exam in the autumn.  There was the Christmas Ball (held in January) and my trip to Oxford to look forward to. Life was good.

The Christmas Ball was fun.  It was formal (before the War the men wore white tie and tails) and Matron would invite the army or naval officers from nearby bases.  Historically lesser ranks weren’t considered suitable for us nurses.  We also had an informal dance every month in the Recreation Room and there was a steady flow of young men – engineers, undergrads and service men all under the watchful eye of Matron, so there was no malarking.  You could, of course sneak out into the grounds on the pretext of showing the visitors the wards from the outside, but you’d better not linger too long in the shrubbery. 

  I had a beautiful white lace dress for the Ball– handed down from Maddie, with a bunch of violets pinned to my bosom.  I met a nice sailor from Kent and arranged to see him when I came back from Oxford.  Actually I wasn’t very good with boys and it soon fizzled out.  Mostly I regarded them as chums and when they started getting soppy my interest waned.  On the rare occasions I fancied someone, I behaved in such an off-putting way I frightened them off.  Such a bore!    I was only seventeen and expected I would get better with age.
   Gran was excited about her forthcoming trip to Rhode Island in the States - to visit Auntie Jean who was expecting her first baby. Evan was swotting for School Cert and planning to leave school afterwards and train as a mining engineer.  How would my little brother manage a career without me there to look after him?

 There was a happy reunion with Annie who was enjoying her Fever Training and mighty relieved to have been spared all the swotting she would have had to do had she joined me in P.T.S.

At last it was time to take the train to Oxford.   I had saved up enough money – as long as I was careful.  Travelling overnight was cheaper but it was a difficult cross country journey and I had difficulty keeping awake – I had been on duty during the day and I was nervous of missing my changes.

The excitement of travelling alone at night dwindled when a strange, beefy man with a long ginger beard boarded the train at Melton Mowbray, took off his shoes and put his feet on the seat beside me.  It was early in the morning when I arrived and the sight of those ‘dreaming spires‘and the mist rising from the river made Oxford seem another world and quite beautiful.

  Maddie met me and we went for a much needed coffee in the High.  She showed me the Ashmolean Museum where her Art School – the Slade – had been evacuated during the war which gave her the precious gift of being educated in such a special place.  I still thought she was mad to throw it all away to marry Paul but knew better than to say so.

I was getting exhausted.

“Maddie can we save any more sightseeing for another day?  I’m going to sleep standing up.”

“Sorry Pat I forgot you hadn’t slept for a while.  We’ll get the bus and be home before lunch.  By the way we’ve got an old army friend of Paul’s staying – Adrian - you’ll like him, he’s nice.  Oh and we’ve been invited to tea in Jamie’s rooms later in the week.”

That last snippet was much more interesting.  I remembered how much I enjoyed meeting the two brothers – Jamie and Liam.  The third one Dylan less so but I would just keep out of his reach.

After a few hours sleep I felt bright as a button and soon Maddie and I were chattering and giggling non stop – much to Paul’s annoyance.  I don’t think he was delighted we were seeing Liam and Jamie - I think if Maddie hadn’t already met Paul before Oxford she would have been much closer to Liam.

The days passed pleasantly enough but it was clear the highlight of my week would be tea at Jamie’s.

  On the day I made sure my hair was freshly washed and wore a fine wool suit because it made me look older and a yellow sweater because the girls in our set said it  made my hair look lighter.

I loved seeing the colleges- they exuded atmosphere and were such gracious old buildings – like nothing you would ever see in Lancashire. It really felt like another world.

When we reached the porter’s lodge there was someone standing in front of the notice board and as we spoke to the porter he turned round and it was Jamie.  Gosh!  I had forgotten those dark gypsy- ish good looks.  After we greeted Jamie- he and I darting shy glances at each other - he led the way up a winding staircase to his rooms.

Liam and Dylan were already there and there was a roaring fire.

It wasn’t long before all shyness had worn off and we were chatting and catching up on the last couple of years.  There was an oar on the wall which Jamie had won in an Eight’s race but Liam was the star oarsman and he was happy to share his skill with us.  Seated on the floor he demonstrated various rowing techniques.

  “Oooh Liam,” I blurted out. “what short legs you’ve got!”  It was true; if he had been in proportion he would have been 7’ tall.  Liam looked at me thunderstruck and the others rocked with laughter- Jamie nearly fell off his chair.  Northern girls are nothing if not direct – something I have tried to curb over the years.

Roy Hudd, the famous Music Hall star was trying to make the difficult transition from stand- up comedy to serious acting and was being interviewed by the late lamented Dennis Potter at his home – with a view to acting in one of Potter’s prestigious plays.

Both men got on like a house on fire and without ever mentioning the reason for the meeting, Dennis invited Roy to stay for lunch whereupon Roy said he couldn’t because his wife was sitting in the car down stairs.

“Bring her up,” he was told.  Roy went down to collect his wife – another Pat – also a Lancastrian.  As she walked in the room her first words were:

“Well has he got the job then?”

Jamie gave us a splendid tea- buttered crumpets, chocolate cake and good strong tea complete with strainer and a brightly coloured tea- cosy which his mother had knitted clearly using up wool she had used to knit the boy’s Fair Isle pullovers.  I hadn’t seen Maddie so animated for a long time – marriage seemed to have sobered her somewhat.  When all the food had gone I started clearing up the dishes and carried them to the small kitchenette.  Jamie joined me and we washed up and he asked if he could write to me.  He always covered any such request with a joke – as if he wasn’t really serious – but I really liked him and loved getting letters, so I said yes.

On the last morning of my stay I was washing up yet again with Adrian (Maddie and Paul were at work).  I was taken aback when he said:

“Now that Paul’s married to a girl like Maddie he should buck his ideas up.”

I had no idea what he meant and he didn’t volunteer any more information.  He had

 been out in India with Paul and knew him pretty well.  He very kindly took me to the

Station and I said good bye to him and au revoir to Oxford.